The Last Legion (2007)

Director – Doug Lefler

Writers – Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth, Carlo Carlei, Peter Rader & Valerio Manfredi

Director of Photography – Marco Pontecorvo

Editor – Simon Cozens

Music – Patrick Doyle

Producers – Tarak Ben Ammar, Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis & Rafaella De Laurentiis

The Weinstein Company. 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence.

STARRING: Colin Firth (Aurelious), Ben Kingsley (Ambrosinus), Aishwarya Rai (Mira), Peter Mullan (Odoacer), Kevin McKidd (Wulfila), John Hannah (Nestor) and Thomas Sangster (Romulous Augustus).

In the first act of The Last Legion, young Romulous Augustus wanders the streets of Rome as a pauper, is crowned Caesar, watches his parents’ murders as Rome is overrun by the invading Visigoths, is saved from execution by his tutor Ambrosinus, taken into captivity, discovers the legendary sword Excalibur and is rescued by the few remaining Roman soldiers loyal to the kingdom led by Colin Firth’s Aurelious.

The Last Legion, like many of the recent wave of historic films (Kingdom of Heaven, King Arthur, Troy) is revisionist and epic. Unfortunately, the film manages to insult the historically minded viewer without at least delivering on it’s epic scale as the other recent films have succeeded upon to various degrees. Clocking in at a brisk 102 minutes, The Last Legion finds itself introducing us to new characters, both allies and foes in it’s last 30 minutes.

The filmmakers have left the audience with no room to breathe, cutting across continents, time and in between characters so quickly it is hard to keep track of what was going on throughout a large portion of the movie.

The cast manages to deliver some entertaining performances despite the material they were given to work with. Colin Firth and Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai (Bride & Prejudice) manage to create a light-hearted on-screen chemistry. And although Firth is somewhat less-than-believable as a Roman warrior, he remains likeable. Ben Kingsley plays a crafty and wise advisor to both young Romulous Augustus and Firth’s Aurelious. John Hannah (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) plays a seedy Roman Senator with a distinctive English accent.

Unfortunately, Thomas Sangster scrowls throughout most of the film as Romulous Augustus – enough to almost make you wish the Visigoth leader had just killed him when he had the chance. The film is full of other characters who don’t get enough screen time to make any impression, and this is disappointing because there are many hints at deeper and more complex relationships than we actually get to see.

Had The Last Legion been an hour longer with a tighter script it may have made an enjoyable alternate history epic. As it is, the movie can be enjoyed for a few laughs, both intentional and non-, and for what it could have been.

Darryl A. Armstrong

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